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Monthly Archives: October 2013

It’s been awhile.  Again.  I was too depressed to post as I didn’t want this blog turning into a rerun of the Korean blog, minus the evil Saeyoon.  I’ve been down, I’ve been depressed.  I’ve hated my job except when I’m with my Grade 10’s.  I never would have thought that I would fall in love with my Grade 10’s, but I have.  The Grade 12’s can drop dead, my teaching colleagues can get a pox, but the Grade 10’s are my job.  They are enthusiastic for the most part, they try for the most part, and many of them are noticeably improving.  That’s why I do this.  I like to make a difference and to have an effect.

But life isn’t all Grade 10’s.  There is all that other crap that turns my stomach, ruins my day, and keeps me in misery.  I can’t get fired and I can’t get another job in China since my visa marries me to this job.  Besides, I don’t want to work in China anymore.  I’ve been there and done that.  There are some wonderful people here, but not enough.  There are some wonderful students here but that will be beat out of them with 14-hour school days.  I can’t change anything and I come home and complain because it gets it out of my system for the day, but at the end I’m reminded by either Shujie or myself that I can’t change China.  They should hire me to be Minister of Education.  Kids that don’t play?  Impossible, Absurd.

Les Miz was fabulous.  It was the 2nd best version I’ve seen.  Colm Wilkinson was first but this cast was fabulous.  It was great to go with my nieces because they both wanted to see it, and they both enjoyed it.  I’m looking forward to the next time I go (whenever that may be).

So I came back to China and started scheming to get out of here.  I can’t get a Chinese job but there is the rest of the world.  Shujie will move to another country to have an adventure.  So I looked and I applied and I looked and I applied.  I did get a job and I accepted it.  Amen to that.  And O man, it’s in Oman.

What do I know about Oman?  Nothing really.  It’s an Arab country and I’m Jewish.  I believe in reality that one day (probably not in my lifetime) the Arabs and the Jews will make peace.  I’m just a little ahead of the curve here.  It’s not Saudi Arabia where woman must dress all wrapped up and can’t drive.  Woman can dress “modestly” and they’re fine.  It’s a University but I am trapped from 8 until 4:30.  We’ll see how that plays out.  I will be teaching young men because classes are segregated and we’ll be living in Rustaq, a city of about 80,000 people about 1 hour and 45 mintues from the capital of Muscat.

It looks like desert life (which is good).  Shujie and I will have equal standing as we will both know nothing so she can’t be the big Chinese expert (which is annoying at times) and I can’t be the big Canadian expert (which she might have found annoying).  We’ll both be learning.

So I got this job but how do I get out of here?  Shujie’s main concern is that this job wants me now (as in less than a week) and payday isn’t until November 8th for my October salary.  I devised a lie (I’ll leave out the details but it involves perhaps a death bed) and we figured they would pay.  I would leave and Shujie remains here so it looks like I’m coming back.  Shujie can’t come to Oman until I get my visa.  What they do is get me an “emergency visa”.  Then they can change that to a work visa in about 1 to 4 weeks.  Once I have that, Shujie can join me.

The money is okay (and tax-free) and it comes with an apartment.  I’m sure gas is cheap so a car may be a possibility.  The cost of living should be fairly cheap living in a small city in the desert.  And who wouldn’t want to teach a bunch of Arab young men?  I must admit that doesn’t thrill me but on the plus side, it isn’t China, it is the desert, and it’s something new and a new culture.

The big lie we were prepared to deliver is not needed.  Today I was informed that they needed two documents from my previous school and I should get them.  They asked for this more than a month ago and we tried and I thought the school tried.  So I told them Shujie would ask again and then I told them that they told Shujie to leave them alone and that they had no interest in helping.  Of course no one phoned and without these 2 documents I can’t get my residence permit and must leave the country by November 8th.

I told them that meant they were firing me and I wanted to leave today.  That started a fight with the liars at the head office who told me that if I left today then they didn’t have to pay me for October.  I told them that they were liars as the contract says if I quit then I have to pay them $500.

Shujie spoke to them and Susan (my boss) spoke to them and it was resolved that I am getting paid what I am owed and I will work on Monday (my last day).   That’s good since I probably have to fly out of here on Tuesday.  So there is no lie needed and their own idiocy and incompetence becomes the reason I must leave.  Bless their idiotic little hearts.

So we will try life in the Gulf Region.  I’m sure I’ll enjoy the food more than I do here.  It will be different.  I did apply for a job in Yakutsk (coldest city in the world) but they hired someone before they had a chance to interview me.  That would have been different.

We are excited to be blowing this pop stand and to be trying a new culture.  It’s funny how this worked out.  All my planning and it’s a good thing I did it since I was toast by November 8th.  So if you’re ever in Rustaq in the country of Oman, stop on by.  We will be glad to see you.

By the way I got my semi-annual haircut.  Shujie was driving me crazy so it was easier to cut the damn hair than to listen to her.  While there I decided to shave the beard but it’s coming back next week.  Let’s just call it my Halloween costume.

The school is having a Halloween party on Sunday night.  I will attend since I have nothing against the kids and many of them have asked me if I’m going.  I’m going to wear my new suit that I got in Vietnam but haven’t worn yet.  What am I going as?  A teacher who dresses professionally.  What a novel idea.  I don’t know if you can call a shiny gray suit with black piping “professional”, but I’m sure I’ll be a lady-killer of 16 year old ladies.

Me

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It’s been a while.  I didn’t realize how long since I last posted but time crawls here and in all the lethargy I surely forgot.  I mean, you have to ask your self punk, did I post last week or the week before?  Well did I?

I love Clint.  It seems I see a movie of his every week.  Shujie likes him too but I fear I’m running out.  When I watch “Paint Your Wagon” and “Every Which Way But Loose”, I’ll know I’m at the end.

So, life at the moron factory is what you’re wondering about.  I have to be there from 8AM until 5PM.  I knew that before I started but silly me, I assumed I could work with some students on my off class time.  However, the students are in class from 6:40AM until 9PM with a break for lunch and a break for dinner.  I was told I could work with students on their lunch break (it’s 2 hours and they sleep) but I won’t do that.  I don’t want to take away from when they can sleep, and why should I give up my lunchtime when I go home.  It wouldn’t kill them to let 2 students come and sit with me for 15 minutes and chat, but I can’t keep tilting at windmills.

I offered to have a weekly movie night.  This would be no cost to the school and I would handle everything.  The first question I was asked was, “How will this help them pass TOEFL?”  TOEFL is an English proficiency exam that students must get a certain score on in order to start studies at a Western University.  I don’t teach TOEFL to my Grade 10’s or 12’s.  This school is based on getting students to get good scores on TOEFL and SAT.  It doesn’t matter that you can’t study for SAT because as long as their stupid parents don’t know that, they can sell it.

So my answer to “how will this help this pass TOEFL?” was, “It won’t”.  I tend (fool that I am) to believe that their training should go beyond TOEFL and SAT.  They should be prepared to go West which means Culture and such.  The school is only concerned with the surface and when some of these kids flunk out in the West after 6 months, it won’t be their fault.  It’s crap.

I was told I could show my Grade 10’s a movie once a month.  I just ignored that.  I’ll show them in class when I want.  It appears to me that Chinese have a serious case of tunnel vision and they can’t look at things beyond their noses.  (And they have very small noses).  As Shujie says of the Chinese (and I would never say this), “they are idiots”.  The parents are idiots, the schools are idiots, and they have no idea that 14 hours of school a day hurts instead of helps kids.  Play is important.  I get so angry but there is nothing I can do.  All I do is tell the students to remember this because when they get older, it will be up to them to change things.  I won’t hold my breath.

I still haven’t seen some of my Grade 12 students as they are off studying TOEFL at language academies.  I have no idea how they pass other things (as GPA is important) but I have a feeling the school just gives them good marks.  The Grade 12’s I have are mostly uninterested.  Literature bores them.  I banned 2 students because they refused to read what they were supposed to read.  I told them to see their head teacher and come back when they were ready to work.  They just haven’t returned which is no loss.

I am still enjoying my Grade 10’s.  The advantage of having first year students is that they are not poisoned yet by other teachers.  They are enthusiastic (not all of them), and they make an effort (not all of them).  But I keep encouraging them and I think I’m building a relationship with them, which pleases me.  Of course, I could be deluding myself, but I hope not.  I don’t have a hate on for any one student (which is a minor miracle).  If you can get them to talk to you one on one outside the classroom, their English is much better.  They don’t worry about being embarrassed in front of their fellow classmates.  They are just good people which is much more important than being good students.

I asked a few students what scared them the most of one of them told me, “my mother”.  I’ve heard of mothers beating their kids when they failed an exam.  We have a short phrase for that in the West.  It’s called, “child abuse”.  But I can’t change it.  I just tell them to try their best for themselves (as the better they are, the more doors will open to them), and while they should listen to their parent’s advice and consider it, they should do what they want (with regards to what they should study).  If they tell me their mother wants them to be a dentist, I tell them to tell their mother to be a dentist.

I have still not been reimbursed for my plane fare (ha ha) and Shujie called the office in Beijing to talk to them.  They did a big song and dance that ended with the Beijing office telling her that all the other teachers (even the foreign teachers) hate me.  I love getting good news.  When I went to school that afternoon I told my supervisor that she should fire me as I would.  I wouldn’t want a teacher who no one likes hanging around.  She had no idea what I was talking about as no one had complained to her (and I believe her).  I told some of the foreign teachers that I knew that they had complained about me and they looked at me like I was crazy so I had to tell them why I said that.  What a place.  Don’t honour your promise to reimburse for plane fare and change the subject to everyone hates me.  Interesting.

I was almost begging them to fire me, but to no avail.  And now, there is no way they are going to fire me short of possibly being drunk in class or naked.  I had to leave China by the middle of October to renew my business visa because the school (idiots that they are) didn’t think they had enough time to get the paperwork done to get me a work visa.

They decided that I and another Canadian teacher should get work visa’s and some total moron (and that’s a compliment) wanted us to give them our passports which they would send to Canada and have someone else apply for work visa’s for us.  I just said that, “you’re not getting my passport”.  The other guy and the Chinese supervisor called the consulate in Toronto to ask about this and was told, “if you give up your passport in China you can be thrown in jail”.  I have no idea whose idiotic idea this was, but these people are not only not to be trusted, they are dangerous.

So, here I am in Toronto now to apply for a work visa.  We flew here on Sunday night at midnight (after a full day of work) from Shanghai (and that was after a 3 hour trip from Wuxi to the airport).  From Shanghai we changed planes for a Vancouver to Toronto trip.  When we arrived in Toronto Monday morning (Toronto time) we went directly to the visa office to apply.  Then I came to my sisters.  I think I was babbling at that point because I only slept a total of 10 minutes on the whole trip.  I was up for about 2 days.

When applying it was pointed out to me that both government letters they got me had mistakes.  One of them said I would start on August 15th (it was September 30th when I applied in Toronto), and the other said my first time in China would be Sept. 25th (when it was already Sept. 30).  Hopefully that won’t matter but we’ll find out tomorrow.  They were so worried that I would screw up my application that they didn’t check what they did.

Tonight I’m going to see “Les Miz” for the 4th time and I’m pumped.  I’m taking my 2 nieces (who have never been) and although we have the cheap seats, it’s theatre and you can see from anywhere.  When I heard in the summer just past that Les Miz was coming back, I was so disappointed because I would miss it.  But voila, I am going to see it.  This makes me happy.

Seeing my sister and family and my mom makes me happy.  I wish Shujie were here because I know she’d enjoy seeing Les Miz.  Plane tickets to Toronto were more than $2,500 each so there was no way she was coming.  The school was paying for it.  In November the price is $1400 return so October is a bad month to travel.  So now that the school had invested another $2500+ in me, I’m not getting fired.  I’ve really fixed my wagon now.  I think it would be cute if I walked in the first day and said, “I quit”, but Shujie wouldn’t like it.  I would get a huge laugh out of it.

This is a week off in China for the “National Holiday”.  I’m here until October 8th.  Then it will be the same old.  I leave school 3 days a week at 4:05 (after my last class) and don’t go back to the teacher’s room to sit around.  They don’t like that.  What are they going to do?  Fire me?  I wish.

I think I’m China’d out.  Shujie wants to live in Canada where I don’t think I could get a job.  If I apply for an I.T. job (which I don’t want), they won’t talk to me because I’m old and I’ve been teaching for more than 2 years.  Employers don’t look for a well-rounded experience (some may).  I would love to go to Africa or South America or anywhere but China.  Shujie cringes when she thinks about moving again.  I grew up moving a lot (almost an army brat but there was no army in my family).  She rarely moved so it’s a big deal to her.

So that’s the story for now.  I return to China and school next week to see what trouble I can get into.  I’m sure I’ll manage but it’s easier when you don’t really care.  I came to China to enjoy myself and have a hassle-free job.  I should have stuck to University where there are no office hours, just teach your class and go home.  I was a fool going for a few extra dollars.  I could have stayed in Canada and made a lot of extra dollars.  I defeated my own purpose this year.  Idiot!  (That’s me).  And being a super-Bozo I signed a 2-year contract so I would be paid in the summer and supposedly there is a bonus after 2 years.  However, knowing them a little I’m sure they’ll weasel out of that.  They’ll say I wasn’t good enough after keeping me around for 2 years.  Logic and Chinese and 2 words that are never in the same sentence.